Oil refinery explosion shakes Saint John, but no reports of serious injuries

Photos and videos show fire and a thick plume of black smoke coming from the refinery

A massive explosion at an Irving Oil refinery shook Saint John, N.B., Monday morning, sending flames and plumes of black smoke into the air, but emergency measures officials said no major injuries had been reported.

“There was, I believe, a couple minor injuries at this point, but nothing serious,” said Geoffrey Downey, spokesperson with the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization.

Residents described feeling an explosion shortly after 10 a.m. AT, and said flames and smoke could be seen from a great distance.

Litsa Daeres, 34, who lives nearby, said she just started preparing Thanksgiving dinner when she heard a “loud bang.”

“My whole house shook,” she said. “I thought my furnace had exploded.”

But then Daeres opened her curtains and saw the flames and thick, black smoke, she said.

At 1:45 p.m. AT, flames were still visible, with four separate sources of water being poured on the blaze. Ambulances could be seen coming and going, but without their emergency signals.

The refinery is near several residential neighbourhoods on Saint John’s east side, about five kilometres from the city core, known as Uptown.

“Praying for the safety of all involved,” Saint John Mayor Don Darling said on Twitter.

Downey said no evacuation orders had been issued, but there was an “order to shelter in place for anyone living in the direction of the plume.”

A local hospital said it had issued an “orange alert,” meaning it was preparing for a possible influx of patients.

Irving Oil did not provide any details about the incident, saying it would release more information when it became available.

According to the Irving Oil web site, the refinery produces more than 320,000 barrels of “finished energy products” every day, with more than half going the U.S. northeast.

“We refine a wide range of products for our wholesale and retail markets, including gasoline, diesel, heating oil, jet fuel, propane and asphalt,” the website says.

“Our refinery opened in 1960, on a 780-acre site and has been upgraded throughout the years. We have also led in the development of cleaner and more efficient fuels and processes.”

Nate Guimond, 36, said he was doing house repairs when he looked outside and saw the scene.

“There was thick, pitch black smoke mixed with white smoke,” said Guimond. “I heard a rumbling, roaring sound.”

He decided to drive by the refinery, and said he was nearby when he felt the vibrations of what he assumed must be a second explosion.

Michael Steeves, who lives in Saint John, said he was driving about a kilometre away when he noticed what was happening at the refinery.

“From where I was, you could see flames — I would expect they were about a hundred feet in the air — and you’ve got a huge plume of black smoke,” he said about an hour and a half later.

He said he saw hundreds of residents watching the situation unfold from a distance.

Saint John Police tweeted that they were responding to the incident, and asked people to stay away from the area. Several streets have been closed down.

Steeves said the incident reminded him of a similar event in the late 90s, when the same refinery suffered a similar explosion which left one person dead.

“Just seeing the clouds, and what they’ve got closed off, it just seems to be a pretty similar level of event,” he said.

Irving said on Twitter that the company is “actively assessing the situation” and will share more information when it becomes available.

“On behalf of all New Brunswickers, our thoughts are with the workers affected and with the community of Saint John,” Premier Brian Gallant said in a tweet.

— With files from Alex Cooke in Halifax and Alanna Rizza and Nicole Thompson in Toronto.

Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Council meetings now closed to the public in Chilliwack

Changes comply with provincial orders for no public gatherings and help development applications

Chilliwack elementary schools roll parades through their neighbourhoods, past students’ homes

Unsworth and Central are two of many schools trying to connect teachers with students in fun way

Kinneman appointed CAO of the Fraser Valley Regional District

Her ‘experience and connection with the staff and FVRD partners was unparalleled’ says board chair

Chilliwack school district rolls out next year’s budget, expects COVID-19 costs to change things

Public is being encouraged to connect with the district with any questions about 2020/2021 budget

Chilliwack residents upset by blasting ‘nightmare’ in their hillside neighbourhood

Little Mountain neighbour says blasting ‘unconscionable’ while they’re following advice to stay home

UPDATE: Canadians awake to extra COVID-19 emergency benefit money, feds clarify changes

The CRA and federal officials are working to clarify the confusion around payments

B.C. sorting medical equipment sales, donation offers for COVID-19

Supply hub has call out for masks, gowns, coronavirus swabs

B.C. records five more deaths due to COVID-19, 45 new cases

A total of 838 people have recovered from the virus

Major crimes investigating sudden death of North Okanagan child

The 8 year old was flown to Kelowna General Hospital and died hours later

BC institution has highest number of positive results for COVID-19

11 inmates in Mission test positive for coronavirus, more than any other federal prison in Canada

Easter Bunny added to B.C.’s list of essential workers

Premier John Horgan authorizes bunny to spread “eggs-ellent cheer” throughout province

Travellers returning to B.C. must have self-isolation plan or face quarantine: Horgan

Premier John Horgan says forms must be filled out by travellers

More than 400 animals have been adopted amid pandemic: B.C. SPCA

People are taking this time of social distancing to find a loyal companion through the animal welfare group

Most Read